Going Deeper 4


Unanswered prayer. What happens when prayer isn’t instantly answered? Did we pray the wrong thing? Sometimes we do, but often we need to keep on praying. Sometimes it needs more time and pressure to squeeze our circumstance into the new mould of God’s word!

Remember Elijah (1 Kings 18:41 – 45). He spoke God’s word into a situation of chronic drought (‘there’s the sound of heavy rain’). Then he started to pray that God’s word would be fulfilled. When nothing happened, he continued to pray. He kept looking to see if the promised change had arrived yet! As Elijah kept on praying, pushing in the Spirit, crying out in faith for God to fulfil his word, God was beginning to draw water vapour into a cloud far out at sea. Eventually, it was seen and finally it started to rain. The word that God had given had come to pass. Elijah had prayed it into being!

Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow who kept up the pressure on an unjust judge. The judge eventually granted the request. His story was specifically told to encourage people always to pray and not to give up (Luke 18:1-8). How do we do this?

Wrestling . There’s a picture in Colossians 4:12 of Epaphras. ‘He’s always wrestling in prayer for you’, wrote Paul. It’s easy to imagine this saint, eyes shut in earnest concentration, taking hold of a subject in prayer, and attacking it from every angle, mentally rolling it over and over until he sensed that he had won the victory. Sometimes we need to see prayer as a fight!

Training . Which athlete can win a race without training? Every morning he gets up early and runs a course that he has mapped out. His daily routine is ordered with this goal in mind. As he exercises his muscles he finds that they are getting stronger. He has more power and tires less easily. We can adopt a similar approach with prayer. We hold ourselves to a certain amount of time, keep on praying, resisting the temptation to go and do something else!

Persevering . A woman came to Jesus (Matthew 15:22-28) and asked for help for her demon possessed daughter. It seemed he wasn’t interested because he didn’t answer her. She persisted. His disciples told her to go away. She persisted. Jesus explained that he was too busy looking after the needs of the Jews. She persisted. He said that the food for the children must come first before others. She persisted and found the courage and quick wit to come up with a smart answer, ‘Even the dogs get the crumbs from the children’s table.’ Jesus said she had great faith. Her request was granted ; her daughter was healed.

It was his intention to heal all along, but he needed her to get to the point of not accepting ‘no’ for an answer. Silence from heaven, being cold-shouldered by Christians, even a theological perspective that says these things don’t happen today are all used to discourage us. They didn’t deter the woman who would not accept no, and they shouldn’t deter us either.

We need not accept the status quo concerning life where it is contrary to the will of God. There is too much at stake and we must persist until we see change


Widening our perspective. Sometimes our praying can revolve around our own circumstances and contacts. Most of us live in villages, towns or cities. These places where we live have significance, character and identity. They are full of people who we may not know, but together we make up our community’s distinct character. Cities and other places are the subject of prayers in the Bible. We can begin to pray in such a way that the entire atmosphere, infrastructure and corporate activities can be transformed. Let’s extend our praying and ask God to be at work in new places; let’s stand together in prayer for our cities, towns and villages. And as we look further a field, we can also consider interceding for our nation.


Obstacles to faith

Whilst people’s minds are blinded by the god of this age, primarily through sin and unbelief, there are also other obstacles. Cities and towns, like people, have characteristics – certain things that contribute to a common identity. Jesus spoke of whole towns on occasion describing their collective attitude to him (Matthew 23:37, Luke 10:13-15). In his travels Paul noticed how local mindsets affected how the gospel was received (Acts 17:11,16,21).

Through a town’s history, character gradually evolves, being shaped by people and key events. In some places there is more opposition to the gospel than in others. The cultural mindset clearly affects things. As we identify some local character traits or mindsets that could be obstacles to the gospel e.g. apathy, complacency, or superiority these can help us to pray for change. God can change people’s character, even the character of a whole area.

But how can we have greater authority in prayer? See the next article!